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Democratic candidate Andrew Yang predicts 'mass riots and violence' if impact of technology goes unchecked

Andrew Yang, founder of Venture for America and 2020
Andrew Yang, Democratic outsider, believes the impact of big tech could be catastophic Credit: Bloomberg

Andrew Yang, the outsider US presidential candidate running on a promise to save America from Silicon Valley, has predicted “mass riots and violence” if nothing is done to mitigate job losses caused by technology.

The former tech entrepreneur, who is seeking the Democrat nomination in 2020, said the USA could suffer “catastrophic” disruption from angry workers made obsolete by automation.

He described his flagship policy, a universal basic income of $1,000 per month for every adult US citizen, as an “emergency measure” necessary to reverse the country’s declining life expectancy and surging suicide and drug overdose statistics.

And he framed himself as the only Democrat candidate willing to address the problems that led to the election of Donald Trump, inviting comparison with the far more popular Joe Biden, who is currently the front-runner.

“In the first industrial revolution there were mass riots that killed hundreds of people and caused the equivalent of billions of dollars’ worth of economic harm,” Mr Yang said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

“Most expects predict that this industrial revolution will be two to three times faster and more disruptive than that one. So if that one included mass riots and violence, there’s no reason to expect this one would not either.”

As an example, he suggested, thousands of ex-military truckers, “many of [whom] own guns”, could paralyse the country by blocking roads in protest against driverless trucks, potentially escalating into violence.

Mr Yang has rapidly gained a small but loyal following in the crowded Democratic primary. Though only polling at 1 to 3pc, he has raised roughly $2m from more than 65,000 donors, qualifying him for the first stage of TV debates this summer.

His campaign has been unconventional, making hundreds of detailed promises, from the pragmatic to the surreal, and emphasising his status as an “Asian math nerd” who makes arguments from data. He has pledged to introduce free universal healthcare and decriminalise small stashes of opioids (including heroin), but also to hire a permanent White House psychiatrist and help mixed martial arts fighters establish trade unions.

On the stump in Seattle earlier this month, at the doorstep of Amazon and Microsoft, he delivered a freewheeling mixture of jokes, profanity, digs at Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos, detailed economic statistics and references to marijuana before an audience of around 2,500.

At one point he declared that he would be the first president to use Microsoft’s PowerPoint software in his State of the Union address, prompting supporters to chant: “PowerPoint! PowerPoint!”

Mr Yang remains an outside bet in the 22-strong Democratic field. Last week Joe Biden, who was vice president under Barack Obama, advanced his lead by 5 percentage points, having promised to restore dignity and respect to the blue collar workers who put Donald Trump over the line in 2016.

The contest has drawn an unprecedented number of female candidates and candidates of colour. But new hopefuls of all demographics have struggled against the fact that many voters have never heard of them.

Asked by The Telegraph whether Americans really wanted a “math nerd” for president, Mr Yang said that “you can only be yourself” and argued that his emphasis on problem-solving was attractive to people who had “lost faith in our establishment”.